For those who don't know, Racing Lagoon is a "High-Speed Driving RPG" released by Square back in May '99. Like the name implies, it's a racing game/RPG hybird, and it was pretty fun (from the demo I played anyway), despite what magazines had to say. The setting of the game was the nightlife in Yokohama, Japan, and the soundtrack reflects that brilliantly. Now with that out of the way, on to the music!
This soundtrack spans two CDs, and they are chock-full of great music. If you like jazz then with this you've hit the jackpot - smooth piano, blaring sax, clarinets, organs, electric and jazz guitars, hip-hop and house synth sounds, sampled voices, insane percussion, and solos for every instrument. This music is powerful stuff! And no one - not even a non-jazz lover - can keep a straight face after hearing a minute long drum solo. No other genre of music can make you want to tap your feet and smile like jazz can.
The music isn't purely jazz however, it also includes every sub-genre of it. You have fusion, hip-hop, R&B, house... you name it, it's probably here. This is far and away Noriko Matsueda's (Bahamut Lagoon, Front Mission, Front Mission 2) best soundtrack yet. I always thought her jazzy bar and shop tracks in the Front Mission games were her best work, and now there's a whole soundtrack of that style and I couldn't be happier.
Even though the music is a mix of jazz and fusion, it's more varied than one might think. One minute you're listening to pure jazz, and the next you're listening to a strings arrangement, like something out of an epic RPG score.
Unlike most game soundtracks, you don't have to play the game in order to enjoy this music. I honestly think that this is the best example of how music can stand alone in a game. Every track is enjoyable and actually good, which is suprising for any game soundtrack. There are no duds or lack-luster tracks here.
The sound quality is excellent of course because 1) this is Square and 2) Minoru Akao programmed it. All the instruments sound authentic and crisp, and the sampled voices sound real. There are even some live instruments in some of the tracks, and they sound superb, blending perfectly with the synthesized instruments.
I *highly* recommend this album. Even if you're not a big fan of jazz music, you can't go wrong with what's here. It totally blew me away even though I had some idea what to expect, having heard a few songs from the demo. Find this CD and order it ASAP. I promise you won't be disappointed.